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Beekeepers to swarm at Clemson

Posted: July 12, 2011 4:19 p.m.
Updated: July 13, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Queens and bears will be two buzzwords in conversations at the South Carolina Beekeepers Association summer meeting at Clemson University July 14-16.

Many of the state's approximately 2,000 beekeepers will be joined by their colleagues from other Southern states to hear lectures on topics ranging from rearing queen bees to controlling bears. Participants in the S.C. Master Beekeeper program also will work toward becoming  master level beekeepers.

Experts will offer a series of beekeeping presentations and concurrent workshops, including a hands-on workshop at the Clemson Cherry Farm Bee Lab on rearing queen bees by Julianna Rangel of North Carolina State University and a workshop on keeping bears away from beehives by Edd Buchanan of Black Mountain, N.C.

 Honey bees play a vital role in production of about 30 percent of food consumed in the United States through their pollinating activities among vegetables and fruits, said Mike Hood, professor entomology and Clemson University Extension Service state bee specialist.

Nationally, the contribution honeybees make to food production is valued at more than $14.6 billion a year. In South Carolina about $25 million in annual cash receipts from crops produced commercially are dependent on bees for pollination. Experts estimate that the value of bees to S.C. homeowner orchards and vegetable gardens at about $20 million.

In recent years, diseases, pests and a mysterious condition called "colony collapse disorder" (CCD) have taken a toll on honey bees. The U.S. bee population has dropped by more than half from 5.5 million colonies nationwide in the 1940s to about 2.4 million today. 

"South Carolina has been fortunate," said Hood. "In the past 20 years we have had a stable number of about 25,000 to 30,000 managed honey bee colonies. But in order for the state to remain in good shape, we need to maintain a strong training program for new beekeepers to replace the senior-aged beekeepers who retire. The South Carolina Master Beekeeper program, jointly sponsored by Clemson University Cooperative Extension Program and the South Carolina Beekeepers Association, is a good way to get involved if someone has an interest in learning how to keep honey bees."

The S.C. Master Beekeeper program began in 1996. The four-level program tests a beekeeper’s knowledge and skills and requires public service to help educate the public about the value and protection of honey bees. In the past 15 years, 1,425 South Carolina citizens have participated in this training program, with 900 achieving the certified level.

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